Murder House gets its place in real-life Hollywood lore this week. The episode opens in 1947, with a beautiful young woman getting out of a taxicab and walking toward the house. Right now it’s a dentist’s office, and she needs some work done. Upon making small talk, the striking dark-haired beauty reveals that she’s a little strapped for cash. As a result, she offers to make … ahem … other arrangements to compensate the good doctor. Mena Suvari is fabulous here, offering the right combination of innocence and full knowledge of her wiles. The dentist plays dumb to her advances, but we know what’s going to happen. He tells her to take the carnation out of her hair because he doesn’t want to damage it, but she corrects him. “It’s not a carnation,” she says, “it’s a dahlia.” Turns out Suvari’s character is none other than the Black Dahlia, possibly the most famous murder case in Los Angeles history.
Switch to a mother walking with her three-year-old daughter down a street. The daughter comments on something lying in the grass, and at first the mother thinks it’s just a discarded store mannequin. After all, the body is naked and in a few pieces. But then the camera angle changes, and we see it’s actually Suvari’s character — Elizabeth Short — lying bisected at the waist and bloody with a permanent smile cut into her face. Point of interest: this was the way the real Black Dahlia was discovered in the Leimert Park district of Los Angeles, so kudos to the showrunners for doing their research on the murder.
Back to the modern day, and Moira is fixing the bedsheets in the master bedroom. Ben comes in and asks her to make a sandwich for Violet, who’s absent from this episode for some reason. Rather than do that right away, Sexy Moira flirts with Dr. Harmon. She flashes him glances down her cleavage and crawls sexily across the sheets toward him. She’s convinced he wants her, and to Ben’s credit he resists her advances mightily throughout the entire exchange. I’m quite impressed with his restraint in this sequence, since in episodes prior he seemed ready to succumb. He basically shoves Moira off him and orders her to make Violet a sandwich, saying that he loves his wife and will not ruin their relationship again. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Moira says. To hear her tell it, it’s only a matter of time before Ben gives in to his philandering ways.
Constance meanwhile is smoking and drinking while she paints the biblical Eve with a nymph of some kind. The painting reminds me of the murals Vivien uncovered way back in the pilot episode. I wonder if Constance was actually the one who painted them. Hmm. But then Travis comes home, and his loveable goofiness only gets on Constance’s nerves in the aftermath of Addy’s death. She accuses Travis of being a no-good lazy bum, and even says the reason he came home early when Addy was alive was so he could “diddle her” without Constance knowing. After the argument, she sends him “down to the Korean” for cigarettes and makes him take the dog with him so the pooch can do his business.
On the way, Travis is halted by a flirtatious Hayden, who’s rather good at acting just like what a man needs at that particular moment. She suggests Travis leave Constance, and he comes back with the theory that maybe they should run away together. This was clearly a good thing to say, because the next scene has Travis and Hayden in bed together. Travis comments that he forgot protection, but Hayden says she can’t get pregnant so it’s OK. Made me snicker a little bit, actually, seeing as Travis got some nookie from a dead girl. And all this proved to Hayden, who’s still in love with Ben, is that she can still have sex with someone alive. God, I wish we would’ve seen Travis’s reaction to that statement.
Guess who’s at the door? It’s the detective who was investigating Hayden’s disappearance. And he’s got a friend with him — Hayden’s sister Marla! Turns out Marla’s more than a little suspicious of our friend Dr. Harmon. She accuses him of dumping Hayden in a hole somewhere after she came out to LA. Umm … hmm … someone hit the nail on the head with that one. But then Hayden shows up and acts like everything’s hunky-dory. She didn’t pick up the phone when Marla called because she thought her sister only wanted to hit her up for money. Hayden is “staying in La-La Land to be with Ben,” she says, and now that she knows she can “play doctor” (yeah, I went there), she’s planning to be a big part of his life.
A new potential patient shows up at Murder House. It’s the Black Dahlia, looking for psychiatric help! She always gets into trouble, she tells the good doctor, because she wants to succeed at acting so much that she goes too far with men. Ben asks if she’s covered by the SAG insurance, and when Elizabeth is silent, he says he assumed she was a working actress. She’s strapped for cash though, so she pitches that they make “other arrangements.” Then Dahlia starts to strip, and we see a vision where Ben kisses her and begins caressing the ghost beauty. However in reality he rejects her advances, and concludes the meeting. Ben then gets a phone call from the OB-GYN, who tells him that Vivien’s twins don’t have the same father. Turns out Mrs. Harmon had relations with two men during the same ovulation cycle — we’re talking like 48 hours. Uh-Oh … who’s the other father, Ben wonders.
Constance storms into the house looking for Violet, convinced that she’s sleeping with Travis. Instead she finds Moira, who takes the chance to tell Constance that her “angel” had sex with Mrs. Harmon. Flabbergasted, Constance rushes into the basement and confronts Tate. He reveals that yes, he did get Mrs. Harmon pregnant while wearing the latex suit. Constance freaks out and starts beating the ever-living (or is it ever-dead?) crap out of Tate, who meanwhile can’t think of anything except not telling Violet that he impregnated her mom.
Meanwhile upstairs, Ben walks in on Elizabeth and Moira making out on his couch. He pauses in the doorway and watches these two sirens while they entice him to join them. Another vision flashes, this time of him in the middle, but he shakes it off. He tells Elizabeth he can’t treat her anymore, and in the same breath fires Moira, saying her last duty will be to escort Elizabeth out of his house. Ben storms off, and Elizabeth stares at Moira. The maid told her this was what Dr. Harmon wanted, and now Elizabeth is convinced that she’ll never be famous. Hayden, who’s surprised me this episode with her lack of crazy, shows up and tells the Dahlia that she’s going about things the wrong way. Fifty years ago, Hayden explains, Elizabeth was brutally murdered and her body dumped in a vacant lot. The murder dominated front pages of the local papers for two months, and the knowledge that she was famous pleases Elizabeth.
Flashback! An unconscious Elizabeth is being raped by the dentist. He doesn’t realize she’s dead until he climbs off her and goes to look at her teeth. He’s clearly unsure what to do, because he drags Elizabeth’s body down to the basement. There he meets the ghost of Dr. Montgomery, who says that he can help make it easier to get rid of the body. In suitably gruesome fashion, Dr. Montgomery disassembles Elizabeth’s corpse. He pulls out her intestines, chops her in half, and even carves a perpetual smile into her face. He did this last bit because she looked “so sad.” This is by far the creepiest part of the episode, too, but also one of the most interesting in that we see how Charles re-visits the occupants of the house.
Back in the present, Ben visits Vivien in the hospital. The doctor says Vivien claims she was raped by a man in a rubber suit. She’s currently bedridden, hopped up on drugs, and restrained because she attacked an orderly for saying the man in the rubber suit wasn’t real. Ben sits with her, and he initially appears to offer comforting words. He’d move heaven and earth to get the Vivien he thought he was married to out of the hospital, but she’s not the Vivien he thought he was married to. This woman is a stranger, and one that slept with another man after railing at Ben for his indiscretions with Hayden. He will not lift a finger to help this Vivien, he says, and she can stay in the hospital for all he cares.
Flashback to Hayden and Ben when they were just student and teacher in Boston. They’re chilling at a bar, and Ben complains how Vivien hates it when he drinks. Hayden comes onto him, revealing her crush, and then we’re suddenly back at the Murder House. Hayden and Ben sit in the gazebo, talking, and Hayden once again tries to get Ben into her arms. A supposedly innocent hug turns into Hayden kissing him, and when Ben shoves her away the ghost girl suggests Vivien’s been sleeping with security guard Luke. Something tells me there’s gonna be a throw-down.
Constance tries to make nice with Travis, and suggests they bring a baby into the relationship. Travis is convinced he’s not ready to be a father, mentioning his “career.” Constance claims he’s never going to be famous because people like him are a dime a dozen in Hollywood; she’s offering him a chance to be something real. He storms out, and again ends up in Hayden’s arms. This time they go at it on a blanket down in the basement, and although Hayden’s ready for another round Travis says he’s going back to Constance. Hayden can hardly believe it, but Travis says he’s in love. She asks for a hug before he leaves though, and right when he obliges she brutally stabs him to death. Well that puts a damper on things, huh?
Travis’s ghost shows up almost immediately, and while staring at his body complains that now he’ll never be famous. Then Elizabeth pops in and tells him he shouldn’t be so sure. Hayden is concerned Ben’s going to get charged with murder, so it’s a good thing Dr. Montgomery shows up to offer his surgical skills. There’s still one more problem though: How are they getting the body out of the house? Not to worry, Hayden assures her ghostly conspirators, someone among the living owes her a favor. Hmm, I wonder who that could be? Turns out it’s Larry, who dumps the body near a basketball court. Three men then find the body surgically cut apart in the same way the Black Dahlia was 50 years ago.
Back at the house, Ben triggers the alarm. When Luke appears, Ben accuses him of sleeping with Vivien and getting her pregnant. Ooo, bad shot Ben … because Luke’s sterile! The security guard shoots back that maybe it’s safer for Vivien to be out of the house and away from Ben. Meanwhile, Constance visits Vivien in the hospital and says that she’ll be there to help raise those sweet babies once they come out. Vivien again emphasizes that she was attacked, but implores Constance not to tell because Vivien wants out of the hospital.
We then come back to the house, where Ben demands information of Moira while holding out the latex suit. Instead of helping, she tries one more time to seduce him. Ben, who’s by now convinced Vivien is telling the truth, is too wrapped up in his own anger to be taken in. He kicks Moira out, and just before she leaves he sees her as her true, older self. Apparently he can now see things “as they really are.”
The episode ends with Constance and Billie Dean the Medium chatting over dessert. Constance asks if it’s possible for a ghost to impregnate a human, and Billie Dean reveals that yes in fact it is. She illustrates this point by relating a secret box shown to each and every Pope when they’re chosen. This box contains a single piece of paper, one which details the exact method of the Antichrist’s conception. It will be the child of a spirit and a flesh-and-blood human in a perversion of the immaculate conception a la Rosemary’s Baby. Sigh. And here I was holding out hope they weren’t taking this show into another end-times storyline. Regardless, I’ll still watch it. How about you?
If you missed the previous episode, be sure to read our ‘American Horror Story: Rubber Man’ recap.